Senior men's final: Lalli has the full hand | 09.12.2012
|Andrea Lalli of Italy celebrates as he crosses the
finish line to win the senior men's gold medal at
the 19th SPAR European Cross Country
Championships in Budapest. (Getty Images)
Then it was a short jog to the finish as the Italian revelled in his resounding win safe in the knowledge that with over 20sec advantage with 500m to go he could afford to enjoy himself.
Thus the 25-year-old became the first to win junior, under 23 and senior titles at the SPAR European Cross Country championships since it started in Alnwick 1994.
In the end, that lead had been whittled down to 10 seconds at the line, but the gap was merely academic. In silver, France's Hassan Chahdi confirmed his fine form while Italy's Daniele Meucci joined his compatriot on the podium for bronze.
Spain won the team title led by their cross country champion, Carles Castillejo in fifth with pre-race favourite, Ayad Lamdassem, one place behind in sixth. Great Britain won silver while bronze went to Italy thanks to the excellent Lalli and Meucci.
Like 2011 winner Atelaw Bekele, Lalli went virtually from gun to tape, but in the early stages he was accompanied by Chahdi and it looked as though the pair were going to make the race their exclusive property.
Leading the chasing group at this stage was Turkey's Polat Kemboi Arikan but the European 10,000m champion was not looking entirely comfortable in the snow with his extravagant arm action and was eventually to fade to seventh.
After 15min of running, Chahdi's legs started to wobble and he was soon swallowed up by the chasing group led now briefly by British champion, Jonathan Taylor.
But up front at the start of lap four of six, Lalli was bouncing along in his own snowbound world, enjoying a 70m lead over Arikan who was back at the head of a lively looking group that would sort out the medals.
As the race entered its closing stages Lalli's lead had extended to 14sec and he even appeared to be surprised as he occasionally turned his head, not in panic, but more in wonderment at what had happened to the rest of the field. On this twisty, windy course through this Hungarian open air museum he was literally streets ahead.
This time there was to be no drama at the barn for the final time as had occurred in most of the previous races, except to note that the Italian had drifted into a 21sec lead and the title was his.
Meanwhile, Lamdassem and Castillejo had been quietly going about their work and had crept into the frame for the team. Chahdi had overcome his early exuberance and had made an impressive comeback, roaring back into second as he rushed over the straw in the barn for the final push.
But the day belonged to the man up front who came home in true ebullient Italian style to make his own kind of history.
Click here for complete results.